Did our adversarial family justice system

play a role in this murder-suicide?

by Vernon Beck – June 21, 2000

After reading in the national newspapers about the murder-suicide in Pickering involving Ralph Hadley and his wife, many Canadians must be left wondering about how much Canada’s adversarial family justice system may have contributed to this horrible tragedy. Although what Mr. Hadley did was clearly wrong, questions must be raised as to what caused this to happen and what can be done to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.

If information in the newspapers were accurate, it would appear that Ms. Hadley had children from another failed marriage. Her current husband was also forced out of the family home and a restraining order issued against him, most likely at her request. She was also seeing a new boyfriend after being separated just a short time and was in the process of taking the couple’s one year-old child to another community to be further away from the father.

The threat of losing contact with one’s own child, the injustice of being forced out of your home, the insult of having another person in your home, in bed with your spouse, and now playing "parent" to your children, all can be powerful influences on the human mind and spirit. Couple this with a family justice system that the vast majority of Canadians believe is biased and unjust, with providing little in the way of emotional support for men, it is no wonder that some parents see no other way out, especially when emotional problems may be a factor. Both men and women have murdered their spouses, their children and even the lawyers involved, under such motivations. The bottom line is that until the police and the courts begin to recognize the underlying reasons for family conflict, incidents like this will only become more common. Rage and violence are often the results of personal conflicts that have not been effectively resolved.

Just as greater repression has never stopped the will of oppressed people in the world from fighting back for justice, restraining orders, jails, fines will never stop domestic violence, but only help to increase it in many situations. When people cannot get justice through society’s system of courts, many will be forced to seek out their own personal justice. The only solution to preventing domestic violence is by providing solutions to the causes of conflict in the first place.

Until the components of fairness, gender equality, justice and accountability are once again restored to Canada’s family justice system, tragic incidents like this most recent one will only become more common. The murder suicide involving the Hadleys, the recent suicides of Darrin White of B.C. and 12 year old Philip Allaire of Quebec all had common links – separation and divorce and the adversarial family court system.

The deaths of the Hadleys is indeed another needless tragedy that all Canadians must share blame in for we have all helped to create this "domestic violence industry" that shows little compassion for children and families but blindly pushes on for greater oppression through an adversarial court system which provides few real solutions. If we are to rebuild our respect for our family justice system and really make a start at reducing domestic violence, then it is about time we rethink our priorities and start looking at its real causes.

Vernon Beck is a mediator, family co-ordinator and child advocate from Ontario. He works with children and families of separation and divorce and is involved with the development of programs focussed on reducing divorce related conflict. He may be reached at (905) 829-0407 or by e mail at vbeck@on.aibn.com


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